Panthers find success through the air for first win of season

Wide receiver Chris Smith outruns a Francis Howell defender to score the Panthers first touchdown of the game during play on Friday evening. The game would be delayed until Saturday evening and relocated to Belleville West due to weather. (O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Nick Miller)

By Colten Steele

Weather stretched the O’Fallon Panthers game against non-conference opponent Francis Howell Central from Friday night into Saturday evening, but the delay didn’t hinder the Panthers who were able to get their first victory of the season, 37-20.

The game began Friday evening in O’Fallon, but was initially delayed for weather in the first quarter. It soon seemed evident that the storms would not allow play to resume, and the teams agreed to meet Saturday evening at Belleville West. O’Fallon’s field was unavailable due to the previously scheduled Metro East Marching Classic.

Head Coach Brandon Joggerst said, “The coaching staff was excited for the players to get that first win. They have worked extremely hard and I couldn’t be more happier for them.”

The Blue and Gold were able to put some points on the board in the first quarter for the first time this year. While the Panthers were down 12-7 when weather stoped the game, they led Francis Howell 13-12 after the first quarter following Quarterback Christian Curtis’s two touchdown passes to Chris Smith and Matthew Albritton.

“Christian made some really good reads an our receivers caught the ball extremely well in difficult weather,” Joggerst said. “We had different six different players with catches as we were able to spread the ball around.”

The junior quarterback connected with Smith late in the quarter for a 63-yard touchdown pass and again with Albritton near the 35-second mark in the quarter from just 16 yards out.

“We saw some matchups on film that we thought we could potentially take advantage of during game prep. The offensive line did well with pass protection and allowed Christian plenty of time to make the right decision,” he said.

The game plan started to slow down in the second quarter though, as the Panthers would go scoreless into halftime losing, 20-13.

“They had a few athletes possessed problems with their size and athleticism but we were able to contain them,” Joggerst said. Even though we were down, we felt confident in our ability to move the ball. The defense stepped up and pitched a shutout in the second half which was great to see.”

The O’Fallon defense was able to hold Francis Howell to 1 of 15 passing in the second half, and Joggerst credits the work of his defensive coaches and their adjustments. They were also able to hold the Spartans on two goal line stands in the first half to help gain some confidence for the rest of the game.

The Panthers came out of the locker room firing on all cylinders, scoring 21 points in the third quarter to pull ahead, 34-20. Quarterback Curtis was able to stay hot, finding Evan Carney in the endzone this time from three yards out.

“Offensively we were able to mix the run and the pass to keep them off-balance at times,” Joggerst said.

And they did just that when running back Will Osuma was able to get himself in the endzone through the ground from four yards out at the 4:08 mark in the quarter to create some separation on the scoreboard.

Curtis was able to find his big tight end Albritton again in the third quarter from 16 yards out for his fourth touchdown pass on the night. Brooks Hackney was able to put the ball through the uprights to help secure a 21-point run for the Panthers.

In the final quarter of play, the Panthers were able to continue their second half shutout against the Spartans, and added a Brooks Hackney field goal to get their first win on the season.

They will continue their home streak again this week as they host Collinsville at 7 p.m. on Friday night.

“Collinsville is playing much better this year with a new coach and system. We need to continue to improve upon our weaknesses and get better at the things are doing well,” Joggerst said.